The hype surrounding the 2013 WNBA Draft class – which includes three game-changing prospects in Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, all currently playing for their respective colleges – is at an all-time high as all three have the potential to immediately make a substantial impact on a franchise. Each week, WNBA.com will update you with what each of these players is doing for their respective schools as it's never to early for WNBA fans to start following some of the future stars of this league.
Since the last edition of Tomorrow's Stars, Baylor, Notre Dame and Delaware have played a combined 14 games. All 14 were wins. And that's not all. Baylor, after winning it's last 14 games (11 of which were by over 20 points), moved back into the No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll and and Notre Dame, following a thrilling one-point win over Connecticut on Jan. 5, jumped to the No. 2 spot -- right where both teams ended last year.
All three players are living up to the lofty expectations. Here's what they've been up to.
The Blue Hens have now won eight in a row, they are receiving votes for the AP Top 25 and the buzz is back. Delle Donne, who single-handedly makes Delaware relevant on the national stage, can be thanked for that. This is not to undermine Delaware's supporting cast, but the preseason All-American has this team clicking on full cylinders after a sluggish 5-3 start (Delle Donne played in only two of those games). Maybe the nation's most versatile scorer, Delle Donne is averaging 26.6 points in her past five games, including a 38-point outburst against Towson on Jan. 20. With her health concerns seemingly behind her, it's time to marvel on her one-of-a-kind basketball talents.
What They're Saying:
ESPN college basketball analyst Kara Lawson thinks highly of Delle Donne and she told this to WNBA.com.
"Delle Donne is about 6-5 and is just a superior player on the offensive end. She’s proficient behind the arc and with her ball-handling skills and ability to score, she is a unique player who will force teams to adjust to her game."
While her statistics may not tantalize like Griner's and Delle Donne's, Diggins has long been lauded for her competitive spirit, her drive and her toughness. Most importantly, her ability to win. On Jan. 5, Diggins led Notre Dame to yet another signature win when the Irish defeated then-No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72. In that game, despite struggling early and committing seven turnovers, she rallied to hit two late free-throws to clinch the win.
Let's not carried away here, though. It's not that Diggins doesn't also put up impressive stats. Her scoring has picked up in recent weeks -- she is only 14 points away from 2,000 career points -- and she has also been very active on the defensive end, grabbing rebounds as well as forcing turnovers. She also currently leads the Big East in assists.
What They're Saying:
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw had this to say about Diggins after Notre Dame's big win over UConn. (AP)
"I think Skylar has changed things for us. She believed we can win and has the confidence and that is contagious."
Griner's numbers speak for herself. She's averaged 29.3 points (37-for-60 shooting) and 9.7 rebounds over the last three games, all blowout wins for Baylor. But, where her value is incomparable to maybe any other basketball player on the planet is on the defensive end -- Kara Lawson eludes to this below -- and that was on display by her nine-block performance on Jan. 19 vs. West Virginia.
What They're Saying:
ESPN college basketball analyst Kara Lawson did not hold back from her effusive praise of Griner when talking to WNBA.com.
"Griner has the most potential of any center I’ve ever seen coming into the WNBA. She will change what teams can run offensively. There is no other player in the world with her potential. On the defensive end, again, teams will have to figure out how to run their offense against Griner. And her offensive game continues to grow. You can try and front her, but if her teammates can make the right passes -- over that -- it’s going to be really tough to stop her."
Last week, Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph University courageously took the floor for her first college game, refusing to let an inoperable brain tumor keep her from achieving her dream – and WNBA stars Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings were on hand to lend their support.